Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Lunacy – Jan Svankmajer – The Czechoslovakian, surrealist animator probes into the popular surrealist fascination with insanity and depicts an asylum run by its patients. The main character is haunted by a recurring dream in which he succumbs to the same madness that consumed his mother, in the dream he is cornered by two bald doctors (looking like a maniacal version of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum) who chase him with a beckoning strait-jacket. The film takes its inspiration from two Edgar Allen Poe short stories, ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether’ and ‘The Premature Burial,’ supplemented with the blasphemous and orgiastic menace of Marquis de Sade. Svankmajer is surrealist in the traditionally capitalized sense of the word – subscribing with polemic conviction to Bretonian ideas and the early surrealist texts. This carries with it the same problems inherent in Breton’s manifestoes and recalls the movement’s often naïve inability to recognise its own limits and contradictions. Alongside the objective mystification of Women, the romanticised obsession with mental illness was a defining case in point. This film is at its best in the interludes of animation, where Svankmajor’s magical and inventively morbid skills are made entertainingly apparent. While the rest of the film is interesting and often visually thrilling, its fidelity to traditional surrealism makes the central portrayal of madness, and its treatment, as questionable as some of Breton’s least laudable views. 6.5/10

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